Stunted Vision

Jesse Walker makes a great point about the Great Birth Control debate:

There was a moment at this week’s Democratic convention that seemed to encapsulate the party’s stunted vision. It came during the remarks of Maria Ciano, a Colorado woman who presents herself as a former Republican distressed by the modern GOP. “I still believe in small government, but I no longer believe in the Republican Party,” she said. “Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want the government to have a say in my family planning. They want employers to decide what kind of birth control coverage I have — or if I can have it at all.”

It’s an interesting sleight-of-hand that allowed Ciano to get from praising small government to defending a new government mandate in just three sentences. But that’s not why I’m quoting her. I’m bringing her up because it’s useful to think about why Ciano’s employer would have a role in her birth control purchases in the first place.

The answer comes in two parts. First, because the law requires a woman to get a prescription before she can buy the pill, and it requires her to get an invasive and frequently unnecessary medical exam before she can acquire that prescription. Eliminate those controls, and insurance coverage would be beside the point; the pill would be cheaply available over the counter. Second, because changes to the tax code in the 1940s and ’50s have channeled us into a system where Americans overwhelmingly get their health insurance through their jobs. Eliminate those incentives, and far fewer people would be dependent on their employers for insurance at all, substantially reducing the relevance of the boss’s opinions about birth control.

The Democrats constantly fail to see this. They support a massive role for government in our economy and then are shocked and surprised when businesses spend tons of money trying to control the government. They support the employer-based insurance system and are then shocked when perverse incentives sneak into the system. They want the government picking and choosing which alternative energy companies get funded and then are surprised when the funding is politicized. It’s like they can’t see past the end of their own pinocchio noses.

There’s something else specific to this issue that illustrates how, for all their lofty rhetoric, the Democrats are just politicians. The Democrats have made it clear that they oppose letting the pill be sold over the counter. That is, they support the birth control pill only being available to women who first see a doctor and get an invasive medical procedure (a pap smear). I selected the verbiage very carefully. Does it sound familiar? When the Republicans tried to impose a similar regime on abortion (which I opposed) the Democrats decried it as “raping women”.

Consider this: if birth control pills were currently available over the counter and the Republicans proposed requiring an annual pelvic and prescription, it would be denounced as an unnecessary intrusion into women’s lives; as slut shaming for women who are sexually active; as medical rape. But Democrat support of an existing requirement is seen as reasonable, even progressive. The only difference is the sequence of events and the letters after the names.

The Democrats spent a lot of time talking about the War on Women. And if they have power, I’m sure they’ll maintain birth control and abortion access. But, in the end, it’s just a wedge issue, a way of prying women’s votes away from Republicans. If they really cared about women’s freedom, they’ve have to throw out half their platform.

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